Recently with the start of the racing season I have had a lot of clients looking for some help with post race recovery and trying to maximize the short time between Saturday and Sunday when racing both days of a weekend, or maybe even a double day. The closer together workouts or races come after one another the more important maximizing your recovery becomes. The same is true with weekday workouts where often two hard workouts are paired back to back.
If you look at the athletes that are at the very top of the sport, they have several gifts which is why they are the best of the best. These things include, amazing work ethic, genetics, opportunity, and drive to be the best at what they do. One thing that many of them also have is the ability to recover faster than most. Not only does this allow them to race hard day after day (as in the grand tours) but also allows them to stack more quality training into the same time frame (back to back to back hard days) as someone who doesn’t have that same ability. There are many factors that go into ones ability to recover, some are controllable and some not. The aim of this post is simply to try to take a look at your current recovery habits and possibly make some adjustments to that in hopes of better recovery. I will say what works very well for some people may not work great for others, but this is what I have found to work well and have also had good feedback from others.
By far the most important aspect of recovery is glycogen replenishment. Much has been written in regards to this, but the main idea is that there is a window of time post workout that the body is able to uptake glycogen into the muscles at a quicker rate. From what I have read there is some debate as to how long this window lasts but I would shoot for within 20 minutes of ending your workout making sure you are taking on higher glycemic sources of carbohydrates. Having a post workout “recovery bottle” made in advanced sometimes makes this a whole lot easier. There are many companies that make products aimed at this. I personally have had good success with Recoverite from Hammer Nutrition. Although, If I am at home I still will go after whole food rather than powders or mixes, but on the road they are sometimes the easiest option. Additionally, getting a real whole food meal quickly afterwards is also important. Also addressing hydrating throughout the rest of the day to replenish lost fluids cannot be overlooked.
The other concerns that need to be addressed as quickly as possible post race/workout are immediately getting out of your cycling kit, both for hygienic reasons, and also for temperature control. If it is cold, getting out of your sweaty clothes and putting warm dry clothes on to try and get your core temperature back up is extremely important. I cannot tell you how many athletes I know get sick over the first couple of rainy early season races. It sometimes happens even if you take all the precautions but minimizing your exposure is key. Along those same lines, hand washing, and realizing that your immune system is compromised already after a hard workout is important.
On the other side of the coin if it is exceedingly warm, cooling down after a workout becomes paramount to limiting stress and starting the recovery process. A cold shower, an ice bath, or just a few water bottles over the head can really help. Again getting out of your sweaty close is important for hygiene, even thought you won’t be cold.
The rest of these suggestions are smaller things that can add up to feeling much better the next day:
Compression Socks/Tights – Relatively inexpensive (especially socks) and great for recovery and travel, purchasing a pair of the socks or tights is definitely worth the investment.
The Stick / Foam Rollers / Trigger Point – All products that are meant to be self massage tools that can aid in myofascial release and increased blood flow leading to quicker recovery. I think the stick is the most inexpensive and transportable option.
Easy Spinning later in the day – While sometimes it is hard to find the time, jumping on the rollers or just going for a super mellow 20 minute ride can really help loosen things up.
Rest / Napping / Legs Up – The more time you can spend off your feet the better. So try and maximize the time you are laying around. Keeping the legs elevated will also help to increase blood flow again speeding the recovery process. If you are able to take a nap, do so (especially on double days).
Stretching – There is alot of research on both the pros and cons of stretching. I am not going to dive into it here, but if you are a stretched do so, if not well it may or may not be for you. For me it helps, both with feeling looser and with being able to ride a more aggressive position on the bike.
Again, everyone is different, and these are just a few items that have worked for me and others I know. Feel free to post your own ideas in the comments section if you have something that I didn’t mention!
Thanks for reading!